When Pellegrini wins, Czech-Slovak disagreements will deepen.

When Pellegrini wins, Czech-Slovak disagreements will deepen.
When Pellegrini wins, Czech-Slovak disagreements will deepen.
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“The election of Pellegrini to the position of president would undoubtedly be a new impulse for many people to leave Slovakia, because they would definitively lose hope that the political situation there could fundamentally change in the coming years,” thinks political scientist and co-founder of the CEVRO Institute, Ladislav Mrklas. “If, on the other hand, Korčok wins, these people may still hesitate to move,” he adds.

Slovakia is already currently dealing with a large outflow of young and qualified individuals abroad, from which the Czech Republic often benefits economically. For example, a fifth of university students there go to study at foreign universities, of which about seventy percent go to the Czech Republic. Many then remain permanently beyond the borders. A number of Slovak businessmen are also disappearing to other countries of the European Union, who believe that in the Czech Republic, Poland or Germany they will more easily profit from the advantages of the single European market. According to Mrklas, Pellegrini’s eventual win can further strengthen this trend, and there is little to be surprised about.

Pellegrini is like Duda, absolute power would be given to Fico

“In the event of Pellegrini’s victory, Prime Minister Robert Fico would gain all control over Slovak politics,” says Mrklas. Both politicians are ideologically close to each other and rely on the same groups of voters. “I don’t think that Pellegrini would be able to direct Fico in any way and be a democratic counterweight to him, because he is a conflict-free person by nature. I don’t remember any situation where he defied him more significantly,” agrees Slovak political scientist Tomáš Koziak from the ISM Slovakia University of International Business in Prešov.

Based on the opinion of experts, it can therefore be expected that Pellegrini would fulfill a role in Slovakia similar to that of President Andrzej Duda in Poland during the governments of the nationally conservative Law and Justice party. “He sometimes said something that was not 100 percent in line with government policy, but he went right to the prime minister’s hand in all important points,” judges Mrklas.

In addition, the results of the first round of elections indicate that if the head of the Slovak parliament becomes president, it will be primarily thanks to the voters of the pro-Russian candidate Štefan Harabin, who finished in third place with less than twelve percent of the vote. Pellegrini will thus be forced to toughen his rhetoric towards Ukraine, and this may lead him into conflicts with the current Czech government and President Petr Pavl.

“I do not think that Slovakia can get into complete political isolation in the European Union. In contrast to Hungary, it still appears on the European level with its anti-Ukrainian positions more moderately. But if the situation at the front develops to the detriment of Ukraine, I can imagine that it will lead to deep disputes, and not only between the Czech Republic and Slovakia. There will certainly be more governments in Europe that will start backing away from clear support for Kyiv in such a case,” warns Mrklas.

Even the victory of Ivan Korčok, who, on the other hand, clearly supports Ukraine, does not necessarily mean that Slovakia’s international relations will be problem-free. “It is not good for any state the size of the Czech Republic or Slovakia when its president and prime minister promote a completely different foreign policy. It is not legible to allies or foreign investors. We have a lot of experience with this ourselves,” says Mrklas.

Czech-Slovak ties cannot be severed

Experts point out that the president in Slovakia does not have as much weight as, for example, in the Czech Republic, where he is a great informal authority. “The governmental level is different from the presidential level. In both countries, governments are the key executive bodies with political responsibility for the execution of public policies. We must also remember that only one thing has been suspended at the moment, namely the joint negotiations of the governments. Other formats of cooperation have remained unchanged for the time being,” warns Petr Just, a political scientist from the Metropolitan University of Prague.

According to experts, the family, economic and other ties between Czechs and Slovaks are so strong that no politician, not even the most radical, can afford to completely tear them apart. Related to this is the recently raised question of whether it still makes sense for the Czech Republic to remain in the Visegrad group, when it ideologically diverges with its members – Hungary, Poland and Slovakia – on many issues.

“The Visegrad Group has already gone through various periods during its existence, including the cooling of cooperation. But it was always preserved, even if there were no intensive government contacts. Our cooperation has many levels, which remained intact even in times when relations between the politicians of the Visegrad countries were tense,” reminds Just. “Keeping the Visegrad Four makes sense. But it need not be given such political attention. The intensity of meetings at the highest level may need to be reduced,” agrees Vít Dostál, executive director of the Association for International Issues.

However, experts also add that the Czech Republic should develop partnerships with other European countries in addition to Visegrad. “As the cooperation with the Netherlands and Denmark regarding military support for Ukraine shows, for example, we can find them. It would be nice to develop these seeds further in other topics. We won’t run away from Central Europe, but we don’t have to be trapped in it,” Dostál thinks.

In any case, according to political scientists, Prague should not try to play the older sibling and lecture Bratislava about the state of democracy. “It is right to show that we have a different view on some international topics, but meddling in the internal politics of another state is always very tricky and usually only strengthens those we criticize. That’s why Czech politicians should refrain from commenting on Slovakian domestic politics and Slovaks on Czech politics,” recommends Mrklas.

The article is in Czech

Tags: Pellegrini wins CzechSlovak disagreements deepen

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